Saturday, December 28, 2013

Marianne in the crosshairs.

http://vimeo.com/82817214
My posting may have taken a hiatus, but the UCI cyclocross season sure hasn't. The drama has been amazing and one of the most exciting events of the season has been the Queen of the sport returning to the peloton to do battle with the current series leader American Katie Compton. 


And on the heels of their excellent "Svenness" series, the CXhairs team has now set their sites on the other half of the current reigning monarchy in the world or professional cyclocross - Ms. Marriane Vos (Sven being the king of course). The M.O. is the same with perfect race analysis via text on the screen backed by suspect but strangely engaging music. The race results are probably not what you'd expect and the expert insight provided makes it well worth the watch...as are all of their other vids. If you or anyone you know is new or would like to learn more about the sport of cyclocross this video series is a must.


Click here to check it out. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Keep on Svenning.

Nys leads his nemesis  Albert through the heavy sand at  the BPost trofee GP Hasselt 2013. Photo credit: Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Sven Nys continued his winning ways in todays GP Hasselt. The BPost Bank Trofee event in Belgium was another all Belgian affair with only the Dutchman Corne Van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea) crashing the Belgian party in 5th place. He and 4th place Tom Meeusen (again Telenet-Fidea) managed to reach the leading power trio of Vantornout, Albert and the aforementioned Nys on the last lap, but a vicious response from Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) put an end to any thoughts the TF duo had of making the podium. His attack was covered by both Vantornout (Sunweb-Napolean games) and Nys (Crelan KDL) and the podium group was sealed with the only thing left to decide was who ended up on which step. 

Sven took the lead and tried to seal the deal himself on the last long and deep sand pit, but Albert was game and kept Nys' wheel until a slight bobble on the last turn out of the pit gave Sven the breathing room he needed. The rest was a formality as Sven sprinted - or rather survived? - and gathered his 5th win of the season. 

One interesting note - In today's race Nys had yet another early race mechanical (this one was a flat) and had to work his way back from deep in the field to reach the leaders. It does not bode well for his competition that once he gets those issues sorted and starts having clean early laps he could be even stronger than he has already shown this year. 

Sven is scary. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Svenness.

http://vimeo.com/78931078

Cross hairs cycling (or CXHairs cycling) has been promoting the cyclocross scene first as a team and now as a website and brand for only a little over a year and a half. In that time they have become a go to resource for any and all things cyclocross, including both Domestic and International racing info. They've recently come out with a book covering the basics of the sport and their recent series of "Svenness" videos have taken their knowledge of the tactics, strategies and overall experience of cross racing to a larger audience in a thoroughly enjoyable way. 

The title pays homage to the great Sven Nys and the videos do him justice. It's cyclocross racing explained in a most easily understandable fashion. If you're interested in learning more about the nuances of CX racing, or you know someone who is, do yourself/them a favor and head over and take a look at the series. Any of them are great, but #2.6 above is my current favorite.

Oh, and while you're there take a look at their shop, they make some great products (a Lloyd Dobler/Cyclocross tshirt? Genius!) and it just so happens that they are not only CXHairs, but they also are the brains behind the great WTF Kits brand as well. 

Mud at the Marktcross.

Sven Nys getting dirty on his way to a 5th win at the Soudal Jaarmarktcross - photo credit: Photopress.be

Sven Nys thrives in bad weather. The uglier and muddier it is the more it suits his powerful riding style. It's his ability to win with his head or his legs that has made him the legend of cyclocross that he is. On fast and dry races where he may not be the fastest rider on the course at this stage of his career, he can out think his competition and be in the right place at the right time, but on days like today his unmatched skill and power shows and he often can ride through sections where everybody else has to portage. It's always so impressive to see him power through tire swallowing mud, leaving the competition behind in his tracks. At today's Soudal Jaarmarktcross he rolled in a solid 21 seconds ahead of a very impressive 19 year old Wout van Aert (Yet another talented Telenet-Fidea rider) in a very much deserved second placen - keep an eye out for this young one in the future. Rolling over in third was Rob Peeters (yes, another TF crewman) to make the podium an all Belgian affair (Surprise!). It was definitely a ride to remember on the Belgian "Day of remembrance" holiday (that's why they were racing on a Monday) and was yet another feather in the headress of a cap that Nys (Crelan KDL) has built for himself during his illustrious career. 

Watch the last lap footy here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

La beauté de l'acier


Here at La vie de la bicyclette, we believe that steel is the real deal. That there is no better material to translate the feel of the road through your body and deep into your soul. Are there lighter materials? Of course. Stiffer compounds? Undoubtedly, but there is arguably no substance that that connects you to the ground and consequently to the world like Steel. When I heard about the "Show of Steel Bicycles" taking place here in lovely Orange County on November 17th I have to admit I was stoked beyond belief. I don't know much about it other than it is sponsored by Torellifan.com, but what do you really need to know? There will be steel bicycles on display and it is free. It's from 12 to 4pm on Friday November 17th so you'll need to take off early from work...it just keeps getting better and better. 

See you there!

11.12.13 UPDATE: This show is actually this coming SUNDAY November 17th, not this Friday as I had erroneously reported above. Sorry for any confusion to my massive viewing audience.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

De zonhoven veldrijden was schlect ass

Sven is back in the winners circle @ Zonhoven - Photo credit: Bart Hazen

Sven Nys is a hero in the world of veldrijden, or cyclocross as we call it here in the States. He is arguably the best cyclcross racer, or veldrijder in the history of the sport. His duels with the likes of Lars Boom, Neils Albert and Zdenek Stybar over the last 6 or so years are the stuff of legend. While they have all had their time in the sun, and in the world championship stripes, Nys was easily the most consistent of the group. He rides with a ferocity that belies his cunning. Tactically there are few better, and that is what allows him to continue winning the sports biggest races as he heads towards the tail end of his fourth decade. 

Todays race on the sandy slopes of Zonhoven in round 3 of the Superprestige series was a perfect example. An early flat and some heavy traffic meant he spent most of the race working his way up to the leaders. To be honest he didn't look to have much of an impact on the race whatsoever and Klaus Vontornout and Lars van der Haar applied heavy pressure at the front to insure that it stayed that way. As usual however, Nys did not panic and slowly picked his way back to the wheel of his long time foe Albert. by the time the last lap came up the two had caught on to the leaders and then launched a brutal counterattack. Van der haar was instantly unhitched but Vantornout was game and struck out behind Albert with Nys slyly hanging back. about a third of the way through he punched around Vantornout and bridged up to Albert who didn't stand a chance. On a slight left hand uphill turn he applied the final screws and went around his Belgian compatriot, led out the sprint and never looked back. The two would finish with the same time but there was no doubt that Nys was going to win. Even slipping a pedal could not change the outcome, the current world champ calmly reset and pulled away from the broken Albert who crossed the line with head down and arms straight completely spent. You can check out the last lap in all it's glory here:

Next up for the Superprestige is the Hamme-Zogge Bellokescross, which from what I can understand has something to do with beer as the winner is handed a large mug of the stout stuff to drink. Always a fast race, it nonetheless seems to calm things down after the frenetic experience of this weekends monumental races. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cobbles and 'Cross - a match made in heaven.

Rob Peeters (Telenet Fidea) works to crest the grassy side of the Koppenberg climb - Photo Credit: Photopress.be

The Koppenbergcross leg of the BPost Bank trofee cyclocross series is always a highlight of the European cyclocross season. Much like a win in a road cycling classic, a victory at the Koppenberg can make a Cyclocross specialists season a success all on it's own. - especially if you're from Belgium. Needless to say Belgian Tom Meeusen must be pleased tonight after capitalizing on all of the potential shown in his young career by taking his biggest win so far on the hills around Oudenaarde. He showed a finishing strength that we hadn't seen from him in the past and rode away from compatriot Kevin Pauwels to take the top step on a hotly contested final lap. Current Superprestige series leader Klaus Vantornout finished out the podium ahead of the German Philipp Walsleben in fourth and the World Champ Sven Nyes only 10 seconds back in fifth, no doubt a disappointment to the defending Koppenberg champion and winner of 8 of the last 9 editions. 

Although the BPost Bank trofee is the newest of the big CX series on the European calendar, it is arguably as important as any of the others. With races like the Koppenberg taking a back seat only to the World Championships and maybe few other events, it's a series to pay attention to as the season progresses. 

Take a look at some raw footy from Cyclocross Online here:

Oh - and Sunday follows this race up with the always epic Zonhoven Superprestige. A sandy beast of a course that always equals mayhem and provides some of the best racing and viewing of the year. Head over to Cyclingfans.com to check it out. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

And the women are still ripping as well...

This is not a photo of Katie at Tabor...it's actually from day one of Providence back in the good 'ol US of A. I just thought it was a nice pic - Photo credit: Meg McMahon
The American Ladies are holding up their end of the bargain. Katie Compton rode a flawless race in Tabor, Czech Republic and with the exception of some last lap mechanical hiccups she was in control for much (most) of the day. She finished a mere 6 seconds ahead of the Young-Telenet duo of Britain's Nikki Harris and home country rider Pavla Havlikova, but to be honest it never felt that close. 

Up next in 6th place for the stars and bars was the elder stateswomen of the team, Meredith Miller. Miller recently retired from road racing but is competing in at least one more cyclocross season and if today's result is any indication, is showing no reason to stop anytime soon. At the other end of the age spectrum, 21 year old Kaitlin Antonneau rolled over the line as the 3rd American in the top ten at ninth place. 

I would be remiss to not also mention the super multi-tasker from PA, Arley Kemmerer. At 28 years old she keeps herself busy as a practicing attorney and personal trainer during the day and then races cyclocross as a hobby for fun. It's a hobby that sees her regularly placing high in the top domestic races (e.g.: 10th place in the 2013 U.S. Nationals) as well as pulling in top 15 places in world cup races as she did yesterday. I think I need to re-evaluate my time usage. 

Hopefully the U.S. men can find their stride and start to compete internationally as well as the women are. 

Of course, the big Dutch elephant in the room is the fact that Le Cannibelle Marianne Vos chose not to contest the Tabor leg of the CXWC. Her domination on last weeks race shows that she is far and away the cream of the crop in the UCI women's world cup, but it does not take away from the great job that all of the riders did yesterday, American or not.

Take a look at the last lap video here:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Haard to beat!




Get it? Haard to beat? As in Lars Van Der Haar is Haard to beat...see what I did there? That's some witty bloggoism there. Anyway, I digress... Just watch the final lap of todays Cyclocross WC in Tabor, Czech Republic. The 22 year old Dutchman is on fire in the early going of the World Cup and won his second race in a row to start the season. German Phillip Walsleben and ever present Kevin Pauwels of Belgium completed the podium and share second place in the standings behind the as yet undefeated Van Der Haar.

Great racing happens year round folks, don't miss the amazing racing that will be happening all winter long in the UCI Cyclocross World Cup.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just hit the west side of the LBC, tryin' to find the WRC....(West River Cycles that is).


West River Cycles - 1233 E. 4th Street Long Beach,  Ca 90802
This post has been a long time coming. I don't get out to the LBC as much as I'd like to these days, but when I do I always try to stop by West River Cycles. The shop is serious about cycling and has a strong sense of history... especially road racing and the messenger lifestyle. The owner, Julius, was a bike messenger back in Philly and there is a strong east coast vibe that lends an air of grit and authenticity to the store that you don't often get in most Cali bike shops. The feel of the store is inviting, and during my visits I've seen every type of cyclist that you can imagine come through the door: serious roadie, fixie hipster, commuter, and everyday cruiser types. They are all treated with the same easy going and helpful approach by Julius and Kristen and there is not a hint of the aloofness that so often plagues cool shops like West River. So next time you're near downtown Long Beach, stop by, check out the store and maybe even make a purchase - good local bike shops like West River are one of our most precious resources as cyclists - supporting them over the big boys whenever possible is a good thing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Easy on the eyes.


Amazingly accessible cycling art from Eliza Southwood. Devoid of all the cliche trappings that much (most?) cycling related art is usually saddled with. Check out all of her cycling and other great works and maybe even purchase one here.

Viva la Vuelta!

Horner puts the hurt on Nibbles and Purito as the road turns skyward. Photo credit: Graham Watson
3 seconds. That is all that separates Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner who currently occupy first and second place in this years Vuelta á España. After 18 stages this years race is a virtual dead heat, and with 2 brutal mountain top finishes to go some might say that Horner with his fresher legs is actually the one whose race it is to lose. On today's stage Nibali continued his recent streak of dropping watts and faltering on the tough uphill finishes, and the wily veteran Horner continued his streak of doing the exact opposite. The American pulled away on the last 1km and it looked very likely that he would end the day in red. Nibali was able to muster up just enough to keep the lead by that trio of seconds and now we get to watch the fireworks unfold on the next two stages. 



Fridays stage 19 starts in the picturesque municipality of San Vicente de la Barquera and works it's way over three cat 3 and one cat 2 climbs before ending up on the outskirts of Oviedo and up the often used (at least up until the mid 90's) Alto del Naranco, where the famous statue of Christ waits for the winner with arms outstretched. The locals will no doubt be rooting for hometown boy Samuel Sanchez to make a show of the climbs first return to the Vuelta since 1997. While he has shown some decent legs in the high mountain stages I don't reckon he can pull it off. It would be a nice story and I can't help but root for him, but the real story is going to be the battle between the current Giro champ and the the good 'ol boy from Bend for the top step of the podium. 

It's should be a burner, and I hope it lives up to all of it's potential. Racing starts early, don't sleep on these next two stages, you can find a link to watch at Steephill.tv



Saturday, September 7, 2013

How'd he do that?

Lopes makin' it look easy - Screen grab from Vital MTB "Rapid Fire" Brian Lopes edit.
Starting at 00:20 seconds in to this video, there are two angles of Brian Lopes riding up a steep section on the connector trail from Alta Laguna Park in Laguna Beach over to Meadows trail which takes you down into the trails of Aliso & Wood Canyon in Laguna Niguel. I rode that section for the first time in years the other night and was shocked to remember how steep and tall it is. Everyone in our group had to dismount and walk the 15 or 20 steps to get up it and we were talking about how easy Lopes makes it look. The video does not do it justice, and I have no idea how he does it, other than that he is Brian Lopes. 

Check it out at this link: Rapid Fire: Brian Lopes | Vital MTB

Ahhh youth.

The boy becomes a man - Warren Baguil celebrates his first big victory - Photo credit: AFP Jaime Reina
Warren Baguil celebrated the biggest win of his life today. Considering he's a mere 21 years old one could be forgiven for thinking that's not such a huge deal, but it was, both literally and figuratively. Baguil took advantage of some late stage lollygagging from a 9 man break which included such well known names as Scarponi, Mollema, Nocentini and Coppel and launched a perfectly timed attack to move clear of the rest with just under 2 km to go. He also may have benefitted from a lack of respect from his older and (not so?) wiser companions as they looked back and forth at each other before rallying themselves to try and catch the kid from Hennebont France. It was to no avail however, as his youthful legs matched his youthful exuberance and he battled hard up the 9% final ramp to claim one of the most unexpected victories of this years Vuelta. A great win for the young Frenchman who will no doubt have tongues wagging regarding the possibility of his becoming the next big thing in French cycling. 

Take a look at his winning move here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sigh of relief.

Philbert Phinally Phinds his Phorm. Photo credit: Steephill.tv/sirotti incas you can't read it on the photo itself.
It's over. The long drought suffered by current World World Champion Phillipe Gilbert has finally come to an end on todays Stage 12 of the Vuelta à España. He's been close before on a number of occasions but hasn't had the chops to get it done ...until today. On the fast and technical lead in to the line in Tarragona things got dicey and it looked like it could go a number of ways, but with under 1km to go Eddie Boassen Hagen dug deep and took a flyer that neutralized the sprinters plans and nearly held the lead to the line. I say nearly because the Champ put in a heroic pull to overtake the Norwegian to the line and claimed a victory that was arguably as important as the WC win itself. 

There is a belief by many who follow the pro peloton that the beautiful rainbow stripes worn by reigning world champions harbor a curse that leads to nothing but bad things the following year. History is riddled with stories of riders whose seasons, careers and even lives have been turned upside down in the year following their wins. Stephen Roche developed chronic knee problems and team issues that started immediately afterward and his career was never the same. Legends Luc Leblanc and Freddy Maertens also had precipitous falls in career success that began within months of their wins. Paolo Bettini sadly lost his beloved brother Sauri in a traffic accident only 10 days after donning the stripes, but the worst stories belong to Stan Ockers, Jean Pierre Monseré and the great Tom Simpson who all tragically died in the year following their career crowning victories. The list goes on and on. 

I don't know if I believe in the curse, or if Gilbert's one nice win in the third most important grand tour of the season means his version of it has been broken, but I'm happy that the Belgian has finally wrestled the monkey from the home that it had made on his back. Hopefully it leads to a return to form and performances closer to his magical season of 2011 than to the mostly forgettable editions in 2012 and  2013... prior to today at least. 

Take a look at the fantastic finish of today's stage here.



Tomii treat.



Nao Tomii is making some beautiful bikes in Woburn, Massachusetts. Cycle Exif has a nice little FB post about a beautiful new road rider that he put together for a client. Take a look at it here and then head over to Tomii's page to check out more hand built goodness.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A leg breaker on the Vuelta Stage 9


An amazing finish for Dani Moreno in today's stage 9 of the Vuelta á España. The uphill sprint on the famous 20% plus grades of the Valdepeñas de Jaén was exactly what the Katusha rider needed to move away from Alejandro Valverde and his own teammate Jaoqim Rodriguez to claim not only the days stage but the leaders red jersey as well. Watch the last 2km here to see Moreno's move and the carnage at the finish with riders barely able to pedal once they cross the line. Brutal. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What if.


Another great edit from Infinite Trails. If watching this video doesn't make you want to ride you may have already kicked the bucket. Check that pulse...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hero worship.


Designers do bikes differently. The fine folks at Tenspeedhero are no exception. Based in Chicago the TSH crew is a community of designers and creators who have turned their attention to the world road cycling. They make thoughtfully designed goods created to enhance your cycling experience, whether as a rider or a fan. The newest example of this is their exquisite bicycle collaboration with the handcrafted builder Method Bicycles. Don't take our word for it however, head over to their site and take a look for yourself. You won't be disappointed.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy little brush.


Add caption
Rob Ijbema is a painter from the lovely town of Bilf, Wales in the good 'ol United Kingdom. He paints lovely pictures of professional cyclists doing what they're best at...racing. He may paint other things but I'm not sure and don't really care. If you go to his website you will see great paintings of a number of riders and races. San Remo, De panne, Roubaix, Il Giro and of course Le Tour de France. 

That's where things get really interesting. This last July during Le Grand Boucle he painted a picture of a key moment from each days racing on the day it happened (some even got more than one painting). It's quite a feat when you think about it. Painting is not easy, it must have taken a bit of time to decide which rider at which moment to paint let alone actually doing the painting. I'm assuming around stage 12 he probably started wondering what on earth he had gotten himself into, but just like the riders in the peloton, he pushed forward and finished each and every one of them. Below are a few of my favorites, head over to Painting Le Tour to see the rest of them. It's a great way to relive the tour stage by stage from a point of view you would never otherwise see it from. 

Stage 2 - OPQS working to take care of Cav on a descent. 



Stage 4 - Orica Greenedge steal the show at the TTT.

The riders get a rest day, but not Rob.



Stage 15 - The Giant.
Stage 18 - L'Alpe X2

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Click.


A great photo from Taylor Phinney's awesome win in the Tour de Pologne. That is how you cross the line.

She's the man.


Shelley Verses is a legendary figure in the world of professional cycling. Never heard of her? That's ok, most people haven't heard of her - or the majority of people in the profession in which she made her mark. You see Shelley was the first ever woman soigneur in the history of professional cycling. She  broke down the walls of the good 'ol boys of the European peloton in the mid 80's as part of the great 7-Eleven team and then went on to work for some of the greatest teams of that age of cycling including Greg Lemond's tour winning La Vie Claire team. This interview gives great insight into her life as a soigneur and the mostly thankless job she and many others did in support of some of the greatest riders in history. Well worth the 15 minutes it lasts. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tour de Pologne 2013 - Stage 4 - FINAL KILOMETERS

Amazing finish by TP at the Tour de Pologne today. Ma and Pa Phinney must be beaming with pride.

Monday, July 22, 2013

And that's that.

Froome, Sagan and some little kid looking good on the final podium. 
Just like that - It's over. The 100th Tour de France ended with a magnificent show on the Champs-Élyseé. Everything must have been just as ASO planned it. The race was held at twilight or the first time in history. The remaining riders rode in and then did a set of circuits around central Paris to the throngs of adoring fans. As they rode into the city they followed a parade car containing the four greatest living champions in the history of Le Tour; Lemond, Indurain, Hinault and of course the great Eddy Merckx. I couldn't help but wonder how Lance Armstrong must have felt as he sat on his gigantic couch, with those 7 yellow jerseys lining the walls above it and watched as those true champions were presented in front of the cheering fans. There were attacks throughout the day once it got to the circuit, but none that looked serious enough to work. On the last lap things finally heated up and Omega Pharma Quickstep went to the front to set up their man Mark Cavendish. 

Cavendish had won the previous four Tour finalé's on the Champs-Élyseé and was a favorite to do so again...although not the huge favorite he normally is. That is because the story in sprinting for this Tour has not been Cav, but the young German with the stunning Vanilla Ice hairdo - Marcel Kittel. Around 1 km to go his Argos Shimano team came roaring up the middle and forced both Cav and the ever present Sagan to the right side of the course. It appeared that the Missile was caught off guard and was forced to respond with a huge effort. Before he and the rest of the field knew it they were at 500 meters and Kittel still had support ahead. Sagan was the first to fade as Greipel and Cavendish struggled to get back on the younger German's wheel. As he started his sprint Kittel had a half a length lead. The Greilla and the Missile made up much of that difference, but it was a classic case of too little too late. In fact Cavendish nearly crashed in his effort to overtake Kittel, his front wheel skidding over the cobbles on the road and his rear wheel swinging wildly to the right. He maintained his upright position but the race was done and he was third behind Greipel and the newly crowned king of the sprint. 



23 year old Marcel Kittel was one of the big revelations of this tour and his four wins have served to position him as arguably the best sprinter in the world today.  

With the fans thrilled and filled with exciting racing, the stage moved to an actual stage in the middle of the road. The pomp and circumstance was at an all time high for the centenary edition of Le Tour, and they took full advantage of all of the entertainment technology available in the world today and lit the Arch de Triomphe in every jersey color possible. The final color was of course yellow and it called to the stage the newly crowned champion of Le Tour de France - Christopher Froome. He was strong and confident as he accepted his jersey, lion and bouquet. He stood proudly as God Save the Queen played throughout the capitol of France. He then read a short but sincere speech where he politely thanked all of the proper people who helped him make it to the top step of the podium and fulfill his professional dream. 

It was the last line that I'll remember however, because he took the opportunity to respond to all of the doubters and haters out there in the world. He did it with class, the same way he has all race long. He simply said: "This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour. This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time:."

For your sake and ours Chris - I hope that is true. 

So the 30 somethingth TDF that I have followed in my life is in the books and what a race it was. To those who say that it was boring because Froome was so far above the rest of the field I feel sorry for you. For each days racing was incredible in it's own right. The fight for the lower podium spots went literally until the last km of the last stage ridden in anger. It was a phenomenal event that laid to rest any lingering discussion by the knownothing talking heads who said that cycling was dead in the wake of the Pharmstrong scandal. On the contrary, this race is as vibrant and strong as ever, and we'll keep one eye on the future (but perhaps one eye on the blood tests) which seems brighter than it has been in years. 

Thanks for following along with my madness for the last 23 days. 

For those interested in more, stay tuned for my final "Bicycling life Tour de France 2013 Awards" which will be posted over the next few days. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

As it happened.

Something different today: Going to chronicle the last few km as they happen. Went for a ride this morning and DVR'd the race. I've been on radio silence all day and have managed to keep the results a secret from myself. As I write this Jens Voigt is out front but is just about to be swallowed up by the GC group containing Froome, JRod, Quintana and Contador. Apologies for any typo's but I'm getting this down as fast as I can.

Here goes nothing:

8.5 km - The catch has happened. Jens looks over a the leaders group as they ride past. Chapeau Jens, if this was your last tour break it was a great one. 

8.3 km - J Rod attacks, Nairo follows - and Froome responds!!!! He's riding away from them and Contador is fading. Amazing acceleration!

8.0 km - Froome has made a gap but JRod is pulling Nairo back. The three are together again - Contador is gone. 

7.7 km - Contador is 10 seconds back with Porte on his wheel - Quintana only needs 11 to take second. Kreuziger has blown and is losing a lot of time to Purito.

7.3 km - Mollema is struggling - no top five for him this year.

7.1 km - Contador 24 seconds behind the 3 leaders - he's in 3rd on the road. 

6.9 km - Contador seems to have recovered a bit - only 22 seconds back now. Porte still on his wheel. 

6.7 km - Kreuziger is struggling to pull Contador/Porte back. 

6.3 km - Kreuziger has caught Contador - he's leading him back up. Herioc ride by RK, but the break is still at 27 seconds. 

6.0 km - Froome is out of the saddle and is leading JRod and Nairo up the hill. When will JRod attack?

5.9 km - Contador group 37 seconds back.  JRod takes the lead, but keeps it at tempo. No attack yet. Valverde put in a great ride in support of Quintana today and has now passed Contador/Porte. 

5.3 km - JRod and Quintana looking comfortable as they lead Froome up. Valverde is only 27 seconds back of the leaders - Contador is now 47 seconds back, that means that Purito is virtual 3rd place at the podium!

5.2 km - Chubby pale shirtless guy in a tshirt and rainbow wig. 

4.6 km - The 3 leaders on the road are now the 3 leaders of Le Tour! Contador in danger of dropping further. 

4.2 km - Nairo looks good - has he learned from his earlier attacks? Will he wait for the last minute?

4.0 km - banner just passed - 1:19 to Contador. Quintana seems to be in a bit of stress...

3.5 km - Virtual top 5 on the road: Froome, Quintana, Rodriguez Contador and Kreuziger.

3.2 km - Talansky has caught Contador/Porte - great ride!!

2.8 km - Froome smacks a runner who was too close - runner turns around and looks for another rider to bother.

2.4 km - A giant Papa Smurf just showed up - the freaks are coming out. 

2.1 km - If Quintana finishes ahead of Froome he wins the dotty jumper - if Froome finishes ahead of Quintana he wins the yellow and the polka dots. 

2.0 km - The crowds are really starting to swell now, classic riding up the Somnez. They are inside the banners now. 

1.9 km - Will Purito attack? Only 26 seconds to second for him...

1.8 km - Inside the barriers now. JRod out of the saddle. Kreuziger has cracked. 

1.4 km - Chubby guy in a yellow Tshirt running inside the barriers- hope he doesn't have a heart attack. 

1.2 km - All three out of the saddle. 

1.1 km - Froome Attacks and Quintana follows! JRod cannot respond!

1.0 km - Quintana catches and passes Froome - he's leaving them both behind!!!

0.9 km - Colombia must be losing it's collective mind!!! 2nd spot on the podium is surely secure!

500 meters - he is out of the others sight!

400 meters - J Rod leaves Froome, but it doesn't matter. 

Quintana looks amazing as he crossed the line - both arms in the air in triumph. He wins second place in Le Tour, The white jersey, the polka dot jersey all in his first tour!!

Rodriguez follows 17 seconds behind and has secured 3rd spot on the podium - what a great race after a shaky first week!

Froome crosses 29 seconds back and gives a muted fist pump - he knows he has won his first tour - but the first of how many?

Valverde comes in fourth and has done a great job in support of Quintana - This writer has new found respect for him.

Porte is next in 5th - The MVP of the tour in my opinion - for Team Sky and Froome for sure! Will he be his main competition next year?

Talansky crosses the line just ahead of Contador for 6th place in the stage - What an amazing ride by the kid from Miami. Will he make top 10?

Contador follows Talansky in 7th, his podium dreams are gone but still a great ride by the Spaniard.

John Gadret out of nowhere for 8th.

Jesus Hernandez leads Kreuziger across 9th and 10th - Enough cannot be said about his sacrifice for Contador. 

What a great stage and a great Tour. One of the best in years, sure the overall has barely been in doubt for the last two weeks (or was it ever?), but the racing has still been fantastic and the battle for the lower podium spots has been riveting. 

One more stage tomorrow and then I'll list the final "The Bicycling Life" awards for the race. 

Good times. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rui times tui.

Rui celebrates win number 2 of the 2013 Tour - Stage 19 - Photo Credit: Graham Watson
Movistar team is having an incredible tour. With 2 wins from todays victor Rui Alberto Faria da Costa; and another win, the white jersey and a possible podium for Nairo Quintana the team has more than made up for Alejandro Valverde's mechanically induced inability to fulfill his role as GC contendor. It doesn't mean Valverde hasn't been a valuable leader. He was resigned to his fate after losing 10 minutes on the windswept stage to Saint Amond Montrod due to a broken rear wheel. Despite that disappointment he has continued to ride strong and has played domestique extraordinaire for the Colombian while also giving Costa the springboard he needed to ride to 2 victories this week, the second being today's stage 19 which ended with his jump from the break away group to solo to victory on the Col de la Croix Fry. Some might say it's payback for Costa's GC opportunity being eliminated as well when he was ordered to stay back with Valverde and limit his losses on that fateful day in the second week, while the young Quintana was allowed to go with the lead group and maintain the possibility of a podium finish in Paris. 

Rui Costa has had the freedom to make the breaks 2 times in the last 4 days for 2 reasons: 1) he is so far back in the GC that the race leaders are not concerned with him gaining time and 2) Alejandro Valverde has shouldered the load of protecting Quintana against all of the other GC contenders. He has made the most of that freedom by making well timed attacks when the competition was at it's most vulnerable. Today he had teammates Reuben Plaza and J.J. Rojas to work for him in the break. They helped him to make up time on Pierre Rolland who had been out in front on his own for almost 50 km. Costa caught Rolland early in the final climb and then made his move on the steepest part of the road. Rolland had no answer and simply sat up and fixed his glasses on his helmet as he watched the climber from Portugal ride away to victory. 

Costa crossed the line 48 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden and 1:44 ahead of Klodens Radio shack teammate Bakelants - who continued his strong run in this tour by taking yet another podium. Rollands collapse was dramatic, as he lost over 6 minutes to Costa in only a few kim. He can take solace in the fact that he won enough mountain classification points during his break that he will wear polka dots tomorrow as he sits only one point behind Froome for the outright win in the climbing contest. Expect him to be out front again tomorrow in the final mountain stage of this amazing tour. 

And what of the GC contenders? Well, JRod took the fight to Quintana and Contador, but was unable to distance them and gain any time. Froome had a much less stressful day and handled all of the surges with the same calm and focused efforts we had seen from him on all the stages prior to yesterday. The group ended up crossing the line together nearly 8 minutes behind Costa and the leaderboard remained status quo, with all eyes fixed on tomorrows penultimate stage of the Tour. With 6 categorized climbs and one HC mountain packed in to only 125 km, the riders should be fresh and ready to attack on the final cllimb of the day and the tour - the 8.5 % hors categorie finish up the Annecy - Semnoz. 

Get up early or set that DVR folks, because it should be a true donnybrook on the last real racing day of the 100th edition of Le Tour de France.





Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mind = Blown.

One of the most amazing cycling photos I have ever seen - Stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: CorVas/Cyclingtips
This photo is stunning. It captures all of the drama of the fight for the stage and the GC lead in one incredible moment. Not just any moment mind you, but the moment. That instant where the world realized that for the first time in this years tour, at a crucial moment, Chris Froome was struggling. His arm looks like it is floating, almost beyond his control skyward. Porte is looking back over his shoulder for his leader, he may be starting to hear Froome's voice as it calls out to him. JRod and Quintana's faces are stoic and focused...locked in on the moment to overcome the otherworldly pain that envelopes them. They are still unaware of the coming issues for Froome. The perfect scenario is unfolding behind them and they don't even know it yet. At this point they are still reeling from the sight of Porte leading them...after he had been dropped once. They must be expecting Froome to come around them and force the issue at any time. They are preparing for the brutality of that moment but instead, in a few seconds they will realize he has dropped off the pace and they will reach for another gear and find their wind as an unexpected hope appears. They will work together to distance the maillot jaune and when the dust settles they will gain 59 seconds on Froome and more importantly move in to 3rd and 5th place in the GC, with 2 more high mountain stages to go.

They will learn later that it was not a mechanical as it appeared and as so many of us thought. It was Froome cracking on the biggest day of the tour. They will know that he is human, that he may be vulnerable, and they will plan to attack again and again over the next 2 days in the high mountains. The tour leader will be tested like he never has this weekend by these two and the other GC contenders and it will be amazing to watch.
The Didi is in the details - stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
All of this was happening while up ahead another dramatic battle was taking place between the American TeJay Van Garderen and the Frenchman Christophe Riblon. Both nearly had their races ended earlier in the stage - Tejay by a chain mechanical, and Riblon by an overshot corner on the descent where rode off the side and into the grass...luckily without falling. They had put those issues behind them as they rode up L'Alpe D'Huez for the second time today. Riblon struggled and Van Garderen broke loose with Cannondale's Moreno Moser who he then dispatched a few kilometers up. His lead would stretch out to 45 seconds, but on the second half of the climb Riblon found his legs again and Tejay lost his. It was painful to watch as the American struggled to keep his lead. Riblon was reeling him in kilometer after kilometer. With 4 km left it looked like Van Garderen might hold him off, With 2.4 km to go it was slowly slipping away, and with 1.9 km to go the decision had been made. 
Riblon celebrates just past Dutch corner - stage 19 2013 TDF - Photo Credit: AFP/AFP photo

Riblon rode by Van Garderen with relative ease. The gravity of the moment must have hit him and given him extra strength. For there is no better place for a Frenchman to win a stage of Le Tour de France than at the summit of L'Alpe D'Huez. Riblon is a national hero for his performance and will go down in history for this magnificent ride. He wept as he crossed the line and I'm sure those were not the  only tears flowing. Van Garderen rolled over a full 59 seconds behind the winner. He looked broken at the line despite putting in a fantastic ride for second. But you do not come to the tour to finish second. You do not ride L'Alpe for anything other than the top step of the podium. I'm sure in time Tejay will be able to look back at this day fondly and enjoy the amazing accomplishment for what it was. A truly epic ride on a truly epic day at the 100th Tour de France. 


SPOLER ALERT: The Alpe squared.

Alpe D'Huez. There are few mountains that inspire excitement in a cycling fan like L'Alpe. It may not inspire fear like other riders, but the 21 hair pin turns are not only a path to victory...they are a path to glory for any rider who is first to the top. 

Spoiler alert: The winner of todays stage is revealed after the break. 

What time is it?


Chris Froome on a cheetah...what else would you expect? Don't know who to credit this image to, but I'd wish I did.
Time trials. Many consider them to be the purest form of bicycle race there is. No drafting, no teammates, no lead outs, just you and your bike for what seems like eternity. There are tactics to be sure,  like when to push, when to rest, which bike to ride...sometimes you have to decide that one multiple times. The ability to sustain a nearly full effort for upwards of an hour on varying grades of road is ultimately the only thing that matters. The strongest man wins and everybody else is left wanting, and wondering how to beat a man who seems to have no weaknesses. Today's race was not your ordinary time trial, it had nearly a thousand meters of climbing, far more than your normal race of truth. This meant that the pure climbers actually had a shot to podium, or at the very least to limit their losses. They took full advantage of the profile and managed to claim the top ten spots on the leaderboard. 
The Norwegians are very comfortable in their own skin - TDF 2013 stage 17 - Photo Credit: Casey B. Gibson
This centenary tour continues to provide some of the best racing in years and today's time trial was no exception. There may be little question as to how the race will end up in Paris, but nearly each days race - taken on it's own - has been phenomenal in the amount of drama and excitement it has gifted to those of us who love this race. 

In no particular order here are my thoughts on today's amazing day of racing:
Froome in all of his rail thin glory - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Christophe Ena/Ap photo
Chris Froome is good at bicycle racing: On today's stage he had to dig down deep to win. It wasn't a surprise that he won mind you, but he really had to work for it...and work he did. He was 2 seconds back of provisional leader Alberto Contador at the first check and 11 seconds behind at the second check. When you throw in the bike change that he made (I don't like that they allow bike changes, but that's for another post) and he had to make up around 15 seconds on Contador. He did that and more, winning by a full 9 seconds and strengthening his already vice like grip on the general classification. 
Alberto Contador sucking through an invisible straw (I hope) - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Bike Radar
Contador is coming into great form in week 3: He may feel that it is too little too late and he may be reeling with disappointment at coming so close today, but Alberto's racing has really improved as the tour has gone on. It bodes well for his chances to maintain his second place in the GC through the high mountain stages that are coming in the next 3 days. He struggle a bit compared to his teammate Kreuziger last weekend, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out for Saxo Tinkoff with only 17 seconds separating their two top riders.
Dirty beard - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Laurent Rebours
Dirty rode the TT of his life: Alejandro Valverde is not known for his time trial abilities, and actually is probably better known for his horrible time trial performances in the past. His fifth place finish only 30 seconds was a revelation for the Spaniard. Dirty stepped it up today. I'm still not a fan, but I can respect a good ride when I see one. 
Purito's pain face - stage 17 - Photo Credit: CorVas/Pez Cycling
JRod might have saved his podium chances: Like Valverde, Purito is not known for his time trialing prowess. Though he's not been horrible in his career, he has given away a lot of time in previous time trials - including the first TT of this tour. Today was a different story however, third place and only 10 seconds behind Froome pushes him to within only two minutes and thirty seconds behind the current third place holder. With plenty of vertical feet to ride, he has a shot to gain that time back between now and Saturday...expect fireworks from the Spanish climber. 
Roman Kreuziger Stage 17 - Photo Credit: Bike Radar
Kreuziger kept the pressure on: Roman's ride to fourth place kept his podium dreams alive, and as I stated earlier, the tension in the Saxo Tinkoff team bus at a moderate level. He finished only 13 seconds behind his team leader on the stage and though he'll no doubt be saddled with the responsibility of riding for Contador, should the Spaniard falter in the mountains, he'll be ready to step up. 
Bauke on his way up the hill, and down the leaderboard - Stage 17 - Photo Credit: Roadcycling UK
Bauke bombed: Much like his Belkin teammate Laurens Ten Dam did yesterday, Bauke Mollema blinked on the big stage and was the days big loser.  He rode shaky and even crashed into a retaining wall within 1 km of the finish. The result was that he dropped second place down to fourth. He still has a great chance to gain it back thanks to his climbing abilities and having the support of a teammate like Ten Dam who can climb well in his own right. He'll have his hands full with a group of Spaniards intent on disrupting things over the next three days. 
The young guns - totally forgot to get the photo credits and now it's late and I'm tired - apologies if these were yours.
The future is bright: Nairo Quintana in 6th, Michal Kwiatkowski in 7th, Andy Talansky in 9th and Teejay Van garderen in10th place are all riders aged 24 years old or less. After todays stage only Teejay sits outside of the top 15 in the overall GC. These kids are for real and they are very arguably riding clean - it speaks volumes about the direction the sport is going and the amazing racing that we'll have presented to us fans for years to come. 
Cadel Evans reading the writing on the wall - stage 17 - Photo Credit: Christopne Ena/Ap photo
It's over for Evans: Cadel had another awful day on the bike. The pride of Australia finished over eight minutes behind the winner...it was so bad for him that even Mark Cavendish bested him... and he was just trying to make the cut. I don't know if Evans will retire after this year, but if he does he can depart the sport he loves with head held high and secure in knowing that he did great things for the sport as the first tour winner from down under. He also would leave with what would appear to be a clean conscience of having ridden clean...not something too many of his peers can claim. 
Couldn't find a good picture of Andy from today, so I used this one from the 2010 TDF where he's riding next to some dude wearing a yellow bikini - Photo Credit: Bernard Papon/POOL
Andy is alive: Last but not least there was a Shleck sighting in the top 15 of a stage for the first time in I can't tell you how long. It would seem that he is finding a sliver of his old form and that the challenges of the broken pelvis are finally fading into the past. There's no telling exactly how much of the old Andy will be able to be reclaimed, but at only 28 years old he still has time on his side. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's his name breaks from the break.

Rui Costa and all his names going over the line on stage 16 - Photo Credit: Laurent Rebours
Rui Alberto Faria da Costa has a lot of names. I wonder how long it took him to learn how to write them when he was a kid. I had a hard enough time learning to spell two names, but five? Ok, I guess the "da" isn't really a name, but you still have to spell it...but I digress. Rui Costa as he is more commonly and efficiently known put together a great ride today and slipped away on the days last climb to claim his first stage of this years tour. The Portugese grimpeur has been overshadowed by his teammates Quintana and Valverde this month...but he showed today that Movistar is more than a two man show.

A strong climber and consecutive winner of 2 Tours de Suisse, Costa played his hand perfectly today working his way into the 26 man breakaway which grew its lead to over 12 minutes at one point. When the road started up the Col de Manse he attacked and separated from the others. His move was measured but effective and as he rode over the summit he had 48 seconds on the chasers and over 11 minutes on the field. Once on the descent he put his time trialing skills to the test (he is the national time trial champion of Portugal) and maintained the lead and down the hill and all the way to Gap. 

Meanwhile, back in the GC group the sparks were flying. Contador may have conceded that Froome was stronger in this years tour, but he will not go down without a fight. It was vintage Contador as they raced up the category 2 Col de Manse and he attacked over and over again in an attempt to put Froome under pressure. Froome did not panic, and why would he with his strongman Porte still there to protect him? Porte again put in a brilliant ride in support of his team leader and managed to cover every attack the the Spaniard threw at them. At one point he even had to slow up a bit so Froome could grab back on to his wheel and then he led him back up to Contador. 

With just over 5 km to go, Porte finally cracked and Froome was left alone with a select group of GC podium contenders. As he had in every other stage, the leader of the race neutralized every attack thrown at him by the movistar boys and then the chase was on down the other side. Contador remained on the rivet and flew like Paolo Savoldelli in attempt to break away from Froome and the others. His exuberance got the best of him however, as he lost his wheel and slid out on a right hand bend. His crash force Froome off the side and into the grass where he had to unclip to maintain his balance. It was an eerily similar situation to the famous crash of Joseba Beloki as he tried to break from Lance Armstrong in the 2003 tour. The results were not nearly as bad for Contador as they were for Beloki (who broke his hip in the crash) and he was able to get back into the group and continue to fight as they rode past the spot where Beloki lay in agony on that fateful day a decade ago. Contador and Froome worked together and bridged up to the rejuvenated Richie Porte who again pulled his leader back to the other 6 riders...another MVP performance by the Australian.

The attacks came fast and hard for the rest of the race but Froome had no problems covering all of them and the group finished together over 10 minutes back of Costa. There was some finger wagging (or rather thumb upping) and discussion between Contador and Quintana, who did not attack after Contador's crash. The Spaniard did not believe it however and ruffled a few feathers with his animated response to the reaction from the other riders in their select group. He took big chances today on the descent and props to him for doing so, but to expect every one else to wait when you make a mistake is pushing it a bit...more than a few riders let him know it. 

The big loser of the day was young Laurens Ten Dam who missed the cut on the Col de Manse and dropped out of the top 5 in the overall standings. Quintana took his place and Purito moved up to 7th on the eve of the final individual time trial. With three challenging mountain stages remaining from Thursday to Saturday, tomorrow's stage will be crucial to those who aren't as strong on the climbs to try and stretch whatever leads they may have on the 30 km ITT. With a thousand meters of climbing on the stage, there will also be a chance for the non time trial specialists to keep their losses at a minimum before the final big stages in the Alps. 



I couldn't help but notice the resemblance...


When I saw this pic of Froome grimacing in Wednesday's individual time trial, I couldn't help but think he looked like Ridley Scott's Alien. Even his ungainly position on the bike resembles the brutal, emotionless killing machine from the movie series... elbows out, shoulders hunched and long lanky legs that seem to bend in multiple directions. 

I'm guessing right about now that most of the peloton would probably agree that there is more than just a passing resemblance. His performance has been nothing short of an otherworldly effort. He has shown no sympathy, no remorse, given no quarter and has in fact ferociously attacked his rivals at every turn.

On the climb up to Mont Ventoux it appeared that he would be the benevolent tour leader and let Quintana have the stage in exchange for working together...then he promptly chewed him up and spit him out over the last 1.2 km. No gifts... The Badger must have been loving it. 

I just hope his blood doesn't contain acid like the move monsters does...or any other unnatural substance for that matter.

There seems to be a nickname here somewhere, but I haven't come up with one yet - when I do you'll be the first to know.